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Air Fryer Vs. Convection Oven: What Makes Them Different?

The differences between an air fryer and a convection oven are few but important to know about! 

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Inside the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer Convection Oven

Whether you’re considering investing in an air fryer, or you already own one, you probably have some questions. How do you know which size to choose? Are small air fryers better than large ones? And perhaps most importantly, what’s the difference between an air fryer and convection oven?

To answer more questions like the ones above, I encourage you to check out my helpful air fryer tips and tricks section! In the meantime…

Air fryer vs. convection oven: what makes them different? Air fryers and convection ovens are similar in that they use a fan to circulate air. Despite its name, air fryers don’t actually fry food. In fact, your air fryer and convection oven are more alike than you may think!

There actually aren’t many differences between a convection oven and an air fryer, but there are a few you need to know! Let’s talk about these two kitchen appliances.

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What is an Air Fryer?

It’s important to know what an air fryer is before we begin to talk about its differences with a convection oven.

Air fryers use convection heating (I know, confusing! But bear with me) to circulate hot air around food in order to cook it. The food sits in the air fryer basket, and a small fan circulates the air. This process is similar to the way that deep fryers work. However, instead of hot oil, your food is “fried” using hot air.

This is why air fryers are generally considered healthier than deep fryers! Air fryers use next to no oil and yet still manage to make your food crispy. And this, my friends, is why I love mine so much.

Also, air fryers are usually much smaller than convection ovens and are easily stored on a countertop or in a pantry. 

What is a Convection Oven?

You should also understand what a convection oven is. It’s not to be confused with your conventional oven, which is the large kitchen appliance found in most kitchens.

A convection oven is sometimes referred to as a toaster oven and is small enough to live on your countertop. It’s different from a traditional toaster in that it incorporates a fan for cooking. A convection oven includes:

  • A rack large enough for a sheet pan
  • Enough room to spread out your food instead of stacking it in layers
  • Changeable temperatures
  • A timer

The fan inside the oven causes air to circulate to cook your food. It cooks faster than a conventional oven and is also known to make food crispier (although not as crispy as an air fryer, but we’ll get to that). 

Inside of an oven for convection baking

What is Convection Baking?

When talking about convection oven vs air fryer, it’s also important for you to know what convection baking is! Convection baking uses hot air to cook food, thanks to the use of a fan. The fan circulates the hot air over the food, making it crispier than conventional oven baking. 

So, is an air fryer a convection oven? Kind of. In theory, air fryers are small convection ovens. The major differences include:

  • Air fryers cook more quickly than convection ovens.
  • You use less oil in an air fryer.
  • Food gets crispier in an air fryer.
  • Convection ovens are typically larger than air fryers and can fit more food.
  • You can’t see inside an air fryer during the cooking process like you can with a convection oven.
  • Air fryers can be more expensive.

What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

In the most basic terms — whatever you can bake, you can air fry. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can use the same temperatures or cook times in an air fryer and convection oven. You’ll have to adapt and convert your recipes in order to properly cook your food.

Here are a few of my favorite things to cook in my air fryer:

It’s easy to see why I’m so obsessed with mine!

What is the Difference Between an Air Fryer and Convection Oven?

The main differences between an air fryer and a convection oven come down to how much oil you use and the heating methods.

Both convection ovens and air fryers use a fan to circulate heat and, therefore, cook food. However, size matters. Air fryers are smaller than convection ovens, and the size of the air fryer plays a big role in cook times and crispiness.

The smaller the air fryer, the quicker and more crispy the food can be. This is because the heat can be distributed much more quickly than in a larger convection oven.

I find that air fryer baskets (instead of some convection ovens that have an “air fry” mode) cook faster and crispier. 

Should You Use an Air Fryer or Convection Oven?

I may be biased, but I try to use my air fryer whenever I can! Air fryers cook much faster and don’t require long preheat times like a large traditional oven. Thanks to the perforated air fryer basket, any excess oil drains out from your food, making it a healthy cooking method. 

On the other hand, convection ovens are more spacious than most small air fryers. You can cook more food at once without worrying about how many layers (of fries, for example) you put in, unlike an air fryer. Some critics also say that air fryers are louder than convection ovens. I personally don’t mind the noise that my air fryer makes, but to each their own!

So, deciding between an air fryer or convection oven really just depends on what you’re cooking. 

Can You Use Your Convection Oven as an Air Fryer?

You may notice that your convection or toaster oven has an “air fry” feature. I’m personally not a huge fan of using a convection oven as an air fryer. 

That said, if your wall oven has an air fryer mode, you can use it. To do so, you’ll need to stock up on some extra supplies that you don’t need if you opt for an all-out air fryer. 

You need to make sure you have a perforated crisper tray or pan. You’ll also have to add more oil to the food before you cook it, unlike an air fryer. 

You can learn more about using an oven with an air fryer here.

Air Fryer Grilled cheese on a crisper tray to go into a convection oven

What Are the Disadvantages of a Convection Oven?

There are differences between an air fryer and convection oven, and some of those differences put convection ovens at a disadvantage. Here are the major disadvantages of a convection oven:

  • Convection ovens feature loud fans.
  • The fan can sometimes move around parchment paper or tin foil which can interfere with cooking.
  • Food is more likely to be burned. 

Does an Air Fryer Use Less Electricity Than an Oven?

Air fryers don’t use a lot of electricity, so if you’re eco-conscious, you’ll love all that this kitchen appliance can do! Air fryers are one of the best energy-efficient cooking options. They reduce cooking time by up to 25%, which immediately saves you electricity!

Summing It Up!

At the end of the day, decide if you can invest in a new kitchen appliance and you have the room for it. If you can, an air fryer makes a great addition to any household! It’s one of my favorite ways to cook food and I’m constantly in awe at what mine can do. 

If you’re looking for the best way to achieve golden and crispy French fries, an easy way to make chicken wings, or even how to prepare artichokes in the air fryer, you’re sure to love this handy appliance. 


About Samantha

I’ve always had a love of cooking and creating new recipes, so it only made sense to create a food blog so I could share those recipes with you. This site is designed to provide easy and flavorful recipes with as little ingredients as possible. That means you still get great flavor combinations without all that extra time and effort. Read more...

4 thoughts on “Air Fryer Vs. Convection Oven: What Makes Them Different?”

  1. Cooking thinly sliced potatoes for my family of 6 – convection oven hands down. Even when I tossed the potatoes many times during cooking, some of the potatoes were starting to burn, while others were still raw. It also took more time in the air fryer. I think air fryers are better for small families. They also take up valuable kitchen real estate. From a mom of good eaters, go convection!

    • It can depend on your needs and how they are cooked for sure. Basket air fryers will cook faster than toaster oven-style ones and when food is stacked, it can take even longer in all. I find our Cosori makes better fries than our convection oven and much faster, but we also have a family of 4 and not 6, so I get it!

  2. While your article refers to a counter top Convection Oven the pictures appear to show a standard oven with a Convection feature. I am assuming the cooking method is the same. My problem with Air fryers is the small amount of food that can be cooked at one time. An example is your pic of the Onion Rings. I recently purchased a 17.5 x 12.5 “Crisping” basket for my standard Convection Oven and have had very good results so far with Chicken wings and homemade French Fries. Additionally my oven heats from both top and the bottom so you should not put aluminum on the bottom.

    • Hi Tom, the picture of the traditional oven with the convection feature in it is placed above the section that takes about convection baking (which is done very frequently in a wall oven). Yes, smaller air fryers definitely have that downfall when you’re making more food, but air fryer ovens do offer more space for sure. I’m glad you are having success with air fryer-like cooking with your convection oven.

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